J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker easily won its opening weekend at the box office, grossing an estimated $US175.5 ($254) million over the three day period. (A three day period that includes Thursday night and is only estimated for Sunday. Final numbers come in mid-Monday). That’s, by all calculations, massive. In fact, it’s the third-largest December opening of all-time.
However, the two December openings it falls behind just happen to be the two films it’s a sequel to, the previous two Star Wars saga films. The Force Awakens grossed $US248 ($359) million on its opening weekend and The Last Jedi grossed $US220 ($319) million on its opening weekend. Though Disney conservatively estimated The Rise of Skywalker would come in around $US165 ($239), sites like Box Office Mojo thought that was too low and predicted something closer to $US200 ($290) million. So it certainly underperformed.
The other issue is of that $US176 ($255) or so million, $US90 ($130) million of it was all on the first day (Thursday night screenings and Friday). That’s over 50 per cent of the gross, which could suggest word of mouth or mixed reviews kept people away who hadn’t prepurchased advanced tickets. (For comparison, Force Awakens grossed $US119 ($172) million of its $US248 ($359) million on day one, and Last Jedi grossed $US105 ($152) of its $US220 ($319) million on day one. Both are close to 50 per cent, but not quite.)
Now, you might think, “Oh, it’s the third film of the series, obviously that’s going to make less.” However, that’s not necessarily the case. With the Prequel Trilogy, Revenge of the Sith had the biggest opening weekend of the trilogy, by far, grossing $US108 ($156) million on its opening weekend versus $US64 ($93) million for The Phantom Menace and $US80 ($116) million for Attack of the Clones. (If those numbers seem a little off it’s because the films actually opened on Thursday. If you factor in the opening days, the Thursday-Monday grosses are Menace $US82 ($119) million, Clones $US109 ($158) million and Sith $US157 ($227) million. So the pattern stands. The original trilogy is harder to compare because of platform openings.)
In the end, though, this is splitting hairs. Mere details that are only magnified because it’s Star Wars. Fans will continue to head out over the holidays and even if The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t gross quite what the last two saga films did, it’s still a hit.
And at least it wasn’t Cats, which only grossed $US6.5 ($9) million over the same period. Box Office Mojo says it now ranks “in the top twenty among worst openings all-time for a film playing in over 3,000 location.” Yikes.
Cats, Tom Hooper’s memetic hazard of a musical, is receiving unprecedented treatment from its distributors at Universal. As shared by the Hollywood Reporter, the company is sending theatres an updated version of the Ozymandias-like monument to hubris and toxoplasmosis. This new version of the film, according to a memo sent to thousands of theatres across the United States—the film’s release day—will include “some improved visual effects.”